Mark Twain meme

Being able to clearly describe what your nonprofit does is crucial to raising funds and gathering support.

People need to understand what you do and it needs to strike a chord in their heart before they’ll reach for their wallet.

Unfortunately, most people haven’t spent the time to refine their message.

Instead of sharing something that stirs the listener’s heart and soul, they regurgitate a long, boring, memorized spiel that’s way too focused on the organization. It’s “us, us, us, we, we, we.” It’s ego-centric and it doesn’t work. Who wants to hear that?

If you’re serious about raising more money and deepening donor relationships, you have to carve out the time to work on this.

Here’s an exercise I often do in workshops.

Think about what you say when someone asks “What does your nonprofit do?” Grab a pen and jot it down.

Now, try it again, and use half the number of words.

If you’re sucking in air, I understand.

It’s not as easy as it sounds to be brief. MemeCenter 1410889842581 462 250x153 6 Words to Bridge the Heart Wallet Connection

In fact, it’s hard work to create something concise and inspiring to say.

Mark Twain, the great American writer, knew this. In fact, he said “If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I’m ready today. If you want a 5-minute speech, I’ll need two weeks to prepare.”

How much time are you currently spending preparing the words you share with donors and prospects?

If you’re like most people, you aren’t spending any time at all.  You’re using whatever pops you’re your head at the moment.

If you’re lucky, it resonates with your audience. If not, you’re boring them to tears.

Hmmm. Might need to spend a little more time on it, huh?

Back to the exercise. Got your half-sized introduction?

Good. Cut it in half again. I’m serious!

You should be down to just a few words. These few words will help you bridge the heart-wallet connection.

Want a challenge? Try figuring out what to say about your nonprofit’s mission using 6 words or less.

It’s a great exercise to engage your brain and think about it in a new way.

Every word counts. Choose them carefully.


I’d love to know what you came up with! Click on “Comment” and tell us both your old way of describing your nonprofit and the new one.  Who knows, you might just win a prize!

Cut  Swiss Cheese
You want to raise a lot of money so your nonprofit can change more lives.

You like the Get Fully Funded philosophy of playing and thinking big. You’d love nothing more than to raise so much money that you can completely serve everyone who needs you and maybe work yourself out of a job.

But when you look around at the money you’re bringing in, it just isn’t enough. You’re not quite making goals.  What gives?

Here’s the answer. You’ve got holes in your fundraising.

Yep, just like Swiss cheese, your fundraising is missing a few things.

How do you know? You aren’t raising all the money you need. And you know in your gut something is off, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

You can’t see the forest for the trees. You’re the hairdresser trying to cut her own hair. You just don’t have the perspective you need.

I bet you have one or more of these going on:

  1. Everything seems to take longer than it should, mostly because you have no systems in place and you’re spending a lot of time reinventing the wheel.
  2. You’re so focused on getting new donors in the door you aren’t paying attention to the ones who are leaving, so you’re in a constant churn, always hunting for new supporters.
  3. You’re trying various fundraising strategies, but not seeing the results you want. Your last letter didn’t generate nearly the response you expected, and you aren’t sure what to do about it. And you just can’t seem to totally fill your events, even though lots of people seem to enjoy them.
  4. You’re sending out newsletters and email blasts, and posting on Facebook, but no one is responding. Surely one person would comment on your brilliant words?

You want to know what’s really going on?

You’re too focused on the money.

But wait, don’t you need money to operate?

Yes, you do. But not at the expense of losing the donor and the relationship you have with them.

Back up and look at everything you’ve been doing through the eyes of your donor. What do you see?

  • Are you sharing heart-warming stories that stir their heart and move them to give?
  • Are your communications going two ways? Do you make it simple and easy for them to contact you? Is your email or phone number easy to find?
  • Is it easy to give to your nonprofit?
  • Are they thanked immediately, in a warm and sincere way?

Even if your cause is the best one in town, you won’t fully fund your programs if you ignore your donor’s feelings.

People want to feel good about their gift to your nonprofit. Do whatever it takes to give them that.

Build trust at every turn. Don’t give your donors ANY reason to be dissatisfied with you.

Carve out some time and have an objective look at your fundraising efforts. Plug the holes. Then get back out there and try again. Chances are good you’ll see your results increase.

And if you need help, let us know. Our team is great at finding your holes and giving you solid ideas to fill them up. In fact, sometimes we find million-dollar opportunities! Email Sandy at to set up a time to talk.

 7 Tips to Move Your Board From Flat Lined to Fantastic in Fundraising
One of the biggest complaints I hear from Executive Directors and Development folks is that they wish their Board would help with fundraising.

It’s their job, right? A nonprofit Board is supposed to “ensure adequate resources” for the organization.

And it’s not like they want their Board members to make million-dollar Asks. They want their Board to sell tickets to their events. They’d like for Board members to bring prospects by for a tour. And they’d LOVE for Board members to open doors and set up meetings with VIPs.

Any of this sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

Is it just wishful thinking to want that much from your Board? I don’t think so.

I believe that it’s possible to have a fundraising Board. Heck, I’ve been part of Boards that were great at stepping up to help. With the right training and support, ANY Board can become a fundraising Board.

And it starts with you. You may need to adjust your expectations a bit and put a few things in place so that they CAN be successful.

Here’s what I’ve figured out over many years of working with Boards: most people who sit on a Board are good-hearted and really want to help. The problem is that they don’t understand what they’ve said “yes” to. And in the absence of knowledge about their role, they migrate to whatever looks fun. That’s why so many tend to micromanage.

So how do you fix it? First, understand that it will take a little time. Like turning the Titanic, shifting your Board’s culture is a slow process and you’ve got to be patient. Forcing it or trying to hurry it along won’t help.

Next, realize that you know WAY more about their job than they do.  It’s up to you to help them learn to be a good Board member. Stop playing the Blame Game and being mad at them for their lack of meeting your expectations, and start teaching them what they need to know. They already look to you for answers to most questions anyway, so be prepared to show them the way.

Here are some tips for helping your Board better understand fundraising and how they can join in:

  • Set the expectation. When you recruit new members, let them know that they will need to give a personal gift AND participate in fundraising. Your Board prospects will know exactly what they’re getting into, and you’ll avoid a bunch of mess later on. Just to be safe, I’d put it in writing and give them a copy.
  • Be clear with Board members about what you want them to do. They aren’t mind readers. They more specific you can be, the easier it is for them to say “yes” and follow through. “Everyone needs to fill a table for the upcoming event” is much better than “Please help us make the event a success.”
  • Set your Board members up for success. Make it as easy for them as you can to get a “win” from a fundraising task. This will encourage more participation. Give them the tools or talking points they need for the task you’ve asked them to complete. In the example of filling a table for an event, give them all the details about the event (when, where, how much, etc.), help them brainstorm who would make great event attendees, give them a timeline of when they should be asking guests to join them and when they should be done, and anything else you can think of that would make this task easier.
  • Have individual conversations with them. It’s time to stop making broad announcements at meetings or in email like “Everyone needs to sell 10 tickets to the dinner.” I guarantee you that some of your Board members won’t feel comfortable doing it for some reason, and you’ll uncover that reason in a 1-to-1 conversation. Otherwise, you’ll just be frustrated because only a couple of your Board members did what you asked. The more you know where individual Board members are coming from and what their strengths are, the more you can play to those strengths and the happier you’ll both be.
  • Help them find where they fit in. For those who aren’t comfortable making a direct Ask for money (or selling a ticket, etc.), find them another way to support your fundraising efforts in a way that feels good to them. You can have them make Thank You calls to donors or ask them to host dinner parties in their home to share with their friends about the good work your organization is doing. Lots of people are terrified of actually asking for money, but they’re more than happy to thank donors. The most important thing is to help your Board members find a place where they can contribute to your fundraising campaign and still be comfortable in their own skin.

And don’t forget to celebrate successes with them! Positive reinforcement will help shore up their new skills!

A gift comes in. You enter the data. The Thank You letter gets printed and mailed and just like that, you’re done. Whew! On to the next thing, right?Nope. Not even close.

You’re not done yet.

The Thank You letter is not the end of the gift. It’s actually the beginning of the next gift.

Hmmm. So what happens next?

Most donors want to know what happened with their money. So, a logical next step would be to give your donor an update after a short time to let them know what you did with their gift. You could do this with another letter or an email, a phone call, a personal visit, or something else. Figure out what works for you and makes sense for the donor.

Another idea is to have your Executive Director, Development Director, Program Director, Board Chair, a volunteer, or even someone receiving services write a handwritten Thank You note to send to the donor.  It doesn’t have to be long, just heartfelt and sincere. This will stand out from the rest of their mail (when’s the last time you got anything handwritten in the mail?) and will mean a LOT to your Baby Boomer donors. Quick tip – use your best penmanship. It’s not so helpful if the writer has the handwriting of a serial killer (had an Executive Director who wrote like that).

Even more personal and meaningful is a personal Thank You call. Have someone from your organization pick up the phone and call the donor to say thank you for their recent gift.  You might be surprised at how special this can make a donor feel!  Remember, we really want the donor to feel good about their decision to give to your organization, and this may be just the ticket.

Make a point to personally say thank you and give the donor an update the next time you see them out in the community, at a meeting, or at a social event.  This kind of conversation warms the relationship and lets them know that you don’t just think about them at the office, when you need money, etc.

Could you do all these things? Sure you could. Put some time in between them so they aren’t all bunched up together – that might be awkward. If you spread them out over time, you’ll drip your gratitude out and provide a gentle feeling of satisfaction for the donor.

We never want the donor to feel like they sent their gift to a black hole, wondering what happened but never finding out. Treat them like a valued investor and communicate what’s happening.  Donors don’t usually get this kind of “inside information” so your organization will stand out from the crowd and will likely encourage them to give again.

If you’d like more ideas for thanking your donors, the Get Fully Funded system has a whole section on donor acknowledgement, including a sample Donor Acknowledgement Plan, sample Thank You letters, call scripts, and more. Get all the details at


bigstock Easy Vs Hard Way Road Sign 41401030 250x166 7 Drama Minimizing Tools Every Nonprofit Board Needs
Ideally, your Board should be made up of people who care deeply about the work your nonprofit does and are willing to give their time, talent, and treasure to see it be successful.

Unfortunately, most people who serve on nonprofit Boards don’t understand what they’ve said “yes” to.  They don’t know how Boards are supposed to work or what their role is. And in the absence of that knowledge, they do whatever looks fun or familiar, they step over boundaries, and sometimes they go rogue and cause all kinds of trouble.

Ugh. Nobody wants drama on their Board. So here are some tools you want to be sure to use to keep things running smoothly. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  1. Clear job description. Board members need to know what they’ve committed to and what they need to do to be successful. A good Board member job description includes everything from attending meetings to continuing their own education. It’s best to give them a copy to keep, and to review it annually.
  2. Board member Agreement. People like to know what’s expected of them, so give it to them in writing to eliminate confusion. A good Agreement outlines the things that you expect your Board members to do like serving on a committee, participating in fundraising events, and making a financial contribution to the organization.   Giving a potential Board member a ‘heads up’ about their responsibilities can help them make a better decision about joining your Board and get them off on the right foot to being a great Board member!
  3. Orientation and Handbook.  Once you’ve gone through the process of recruiting fantastic new Board members, get them started on the right foot with a good orientation of your nonprofit organization. Give them all the pertinent information they need to do their job, and consider putting as much as you can in writing in a Handbook that they can refer to later, since they’ll be trying to absorb a lot all at once.
  4. Up-to-Date Bylaws. Your Bylaws are the operating instructions for your nonprofit. They give your Board the rules it needs for running the organization. One item of importance is an attendance policy for your Board. This gives your Board a way to get rid of dead wood members who don’t show up.
  5. Recruitment process. Reactively recruiting new Board members can leave you with more problems than solutions. I’m sure you’ve seen it or at least heard about it – A group waits until it’s time to have new members in place and then hastily recruits friends and neighbors just to fill seats. Being proactive and having a plan to recruit the right people with the skills and talent you need can help ensure your Board is successful. When you have a process to follow, it’s easy to know who needs to do what and when to get great new Board members in place.
  6. Self evaluation. It’s up to the Board to assess themselves each year.  No one is going to come along and give your Board a grade for their performance. Annual evaluations contribute to the overall teamwork of the group and satisfaction of individual members. It points out areas where improvement is needed and sets a course of action for the coming year.
  7. Ongoing education.  Since Board members are usually only engaged in the nonprofit’s work once or twice a month (at best!), it’s easy for them to forget a lot of things. Regular education about the work of the organization and about their role and responsibility will pay off big. Consider taking 10-15 minutes at each Board meeting to provide them with the information they need to do their job well.

universal thank you note 250x168 9 Steps to a Powerful Thank You LetterThe Thank You letter often is created and sent without much thought.  It may seem to be the last step in getting a gift from a donor and a routine task that warrants little merit.  But it’s actually the first step in building a relationship. Do it well and the rewards are great. Mess it up, and you just lost your chance at keeping a valuable donor.

These letters can’t be slapped together. Purposeful and well-thought out Thank You letters communicate a lot to your donors, through the actual words and the unspoken messages you’re sending.

Make sure you are getting the most from your Thank You letter efforts with these ideas.
1.  Send it QUICK. The faster you get your Thank You letters out the door, the better. Donors want to be sure that you received their gift and a Thank You letter is the best way to let them know it arrived safely.  Shoot for 48 hours from the time you receive a gift until the time you put the Thank You letter in the mail.  If it takes you a little longer and that’s the best you can do, work with it.  Figure out what will work for your organization and put a priority on getting the letters out the door.

2.  Make it match. Instead of sending out a generic letter, customize your Thank You letter to the specific ask that was used to generate the gift.  If a gift comes to you from an appeal you sent out, then make sure your Thank You letter refers back to the story or the text in the appeal.  You may need to write several different letters that can be used for whatever you have going on.  For instance, you may want to write one letter for a special event you are working on, another one for monthly givers, and another one for donors who respond to your newsletter.  Relating the Thank You letter back to the ask is a way to let your donors know you are paying attention and that you are organized enough to use be trustworthy.

3.  Share your plans for their money. This is critical.  Make sure the donor knows how you plan to use the donation he or she just sent you. Text like “Your gift will help send 15 children to summer camp for one week” makes the process of donating more real and tangible to the donor.  They can envision 15 kids going to camp for a week and it helps create a bigger feeling of satisfaction for the donor.

4.  Use a real signature. Digital signatures are easy and eliminate hand signing a stack of letters.  But savvy donors know the difference between a digital signature and a live one.  Have your President or Executive Director sign the letters, or ask a volunteer to sign them on his or her behalf. And use a blue pen so that donors can clearly tell it is a real signature.

5.  Add personal notes to the letters. Have your Executive Director or President go through the letters and add personal notes.  This can bring big rewards in terms of stewarding donors!  Taking a few minutes of a busy day to go through a stack of letters may seem like a chore to your boss, but donors who get a Thank You letter with a personal note will be thrilled that the head staff person took the time to personally acknowledge his or her gift.

6.  Include cumulative giving data. Hopefully you have this information in your donor tracking software and can get to it easily.  Sometimes donors forget when they last gave.  Including year-to-date information can be a gentle reminder for them of their giving.

7.  Make it clear if the letter is also a receipt. Don’t you hate getting boring Thank You letters that drone on and never clearly spell out the gift you made? (By the way, if you aren’t giving to other organizations, you need to.  It’s a great way to put yourself in the donor’s shoes and also lets you see how other organizations handle the thank you process.)  If you have to, draw a line on the page below the thank you text and put “Gift Receipt” about the actual gift information. This will make things crystal clear for the donor and eliminate confusion.  It will also reduce the number of calls and emails you get from donors saying they never got a receipt.

8.  Include an offer for a tour. Always include in your Thank You letter an offer for a guided tour of your facility or program site (if appropriate).  Chances are good that you’ll get a few people who want to visit you.  Seeing firsthand the work that you do may make all the difference in the world to a particular donor.  It can also mean the difference in an average size gift and a major gift. Even if you never have anyone take you up on this, they will remember that you offered, and that matters.

I remember one particular donor who came for a tour of my organization with his wife.  They had always been good givers and usually gave about $10,000 a year.  They were so impressed by the tour that they wrote a check on the spot for an additional $10,000!

9.  Give the donor a contact. Include the name and contact info of someone the donor can call with questions. Donors want to be able to call and talk to a real, live, knowledgeable person when they have questions.  So be sure to include the name and phone number in your Thank You letters of someone who can answer questions for them.

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 8 Must Have Tools For Your Fundraising Toolbox
Have you ever heard this phrase?

“When the only thing you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

It’s true. Sometimes we get one tool – one skill, one talent – and out of habit, we stick with it.

If you want to raise enough money to fully fund your programs, you need to use more than one tool. And you need to use the right tools.

So, what tools do you need? Here are 8 that should be sharpened and ready to go in your fundraising toolbox.

  1. Clear, magnetic vision. You need a big, hairy, audacious goal to attract tons of attention and support for your cause. It needs to be something that challenges status quo and stirs people’s hearts. It should be easy to understand and you need to be able to articulate it well. For example, if you work for a food bank, a clear, magnetic vision might be to end hunger in your community. If you work for an animal shelter, how about becoming no kill? The most important thing is that it’s BIG. No one wants to support a mediocre vision.
  2. Hooky elevator speech. An elevator speech is meant to be something quick that you can share that tells someone what your organization does. It’s not meant to tell everything, but just enough that they start asking questions and want to know more. And it’s not meant to be a memorized mission statement (most mission statements are vague meaningless crap). For example, Habitat for Humanity might say “we make sure that everyone has a safe, decent, affordable place to live.” Notice there’s no jargon. It takes some work to create a hooky elevator speech and the result is well worth it.
  3. Heart-warming human-interest stories. You must have stories ready to share about people whose lives have been significantly impacted by the work your nonprofit does. Donors and prospects want to know that your organization makes a difference, and the best way to show that is to tell a story. Good stories show a dramatic difference in the ‘before’ and ‘after,’ and move people to ask questions, make a donation, or get involved. Facts tell, stories sell.
  4. Visitor-friendly website. People will check you out online before they make a gift, so be ready for them. Your website needs to be warm and engaging with plenty of stories, photos, video, and blank space. Long, dry, boring text will run people off, so avoid it at all costs! Look at your website with a newbie’s eye – what would you notice if you knew nothing about the organization? Can you easily tell what the organization does? Is it easy to make a donation? Keep information updated and easy to scan.
  5. Detailed activity calendar. It’s easier to raise money when you’re proactive instead of reactive. Most nonprofits have no plan for fundraising. They do whatever they’ve always done without putting enough thought and strategy behind it. And they tend to deal with the crisis du jour instead of working purposefully on things that will move them forward toward their goals. A calendar of fundraising activities, including grant deadlines, newsletter send-out dates, and donor touches will get you on the path to raising all the money you need to fully fund your programs. And most importantly, get it out of your head and on paper!
  6. Meaningful budget. This seems obvious, but it amazes me how many nonprofits have no budget. Or it doesn’t have enough detail to mean anything. Not only do you need a budget for your entire organization, but you need one for each program or project you’re raising money for. It’s tough to build trust and ask for a gift if you don’t know how much something costs.
  7. Impact numbers. Every nonprofit has a few key numbers that will deliver a big impact when they’re shared. They’re usually related to outcome measurement and they help people understand the need you’re addressing. Impact numbers include the number of people you’re serving or who need your help and the cost to provide one unit of service.  For example, if you work for a food bank, you might share that 1 out of every 3 kids in your area is going hungry. Or that it costs you 27 cents to feed a hungry person. These specific numbers paint a picture in the minds of your donors and prospects, and show them how you’re making a difference.
  8. Donor/prospect list. Here’s another one that seems obvious, yet it’s not common. Most people working in fundraising make the mistake of thinking that everyone in the community is a potential donor.  And it’s just not true. First, not everyone gives to charity. Of those who do, they have their favorites, and they’re not likely to change. Create an Ideal Donor Profile to help you better understand who you’re looking for, so you can find them easily and in large numbers. Once someone becomes a donor, remember their name. Nothing builds trust faster than believing you’re important enough to be remembered. This is especially true for your major donors. If you have to, make a list of your top donors and keep it with you all the time.

Any carpenter knows that the right tool will make the job easy. And good quality tools in good condition are a joy to use. Keep your fundraising tools sharp and everything will get easier.

unnamed 1 The Key to Successful Fundraising is in the Follow Up

It’s a big deal when someone makes a gift to your nonprofit. Even a small donation shows that someone cared enough to take the time to give you money.

I hope you never get so big that you forget how every dollar counts. And every donor matters.

When a donor makes a gift, it’s a good thing. It shows how much they care about your work.

When a donor makes repeated gifts, and supports you year after year, it should be celebrated. This is a high compliment to you and shows how much they trust you with their money. After all, they wouldn’t keep giving if they didn’t feel confident that you can handle the money well.

So, how do you keep them giving?

Successful fundraising is all about the follow up.

The key to creating loyal donors is following up with them to let them know what you’ve done with their money. You can accomplish this through a letter, a newsletter, social media, and more. One really common way to report back to your donors is with an annual report.

The real trick to an annual report is to keep it concise and interesting.  There’s no need for you to blather on about how great and wonderful your nonprofit is. Just get to the juicy stuff and show them how many lives have been changed by the work your organization does.

Check out this short video for more ideas about creating a power-packed annual report.